A couple of months ago I read this Blog by Tomasz Tunguz:
“Blades square,” the coach yelled from the Boston Whaler as he increased the speed on his outboard motor, pursuing the eight man boat as we gained speed. I sat in four-seat, right in the middle of the engine room, the place for the taller, heavier rowers. The eight man team reluctantly complied with the coach’s order and rowed across the Long Island Sound, NYAC jerseys on our backs and the muggy, humid early summer morning sun reflecting in the water, practising for national championships.
Most of the time, oarsmen feather their oars – rotating the blades to be parallel to the water as they move through the air, helping the boat run on an even keel. Holding the blades square decreases the margin for error from a few inches to a few quarters of an inch. If anyone in the boat splashes their oar in the water, the delicate balance of the boat is upset, teammates grumble and the boat slows dramatically.
In college, we rowed blades square only infrequently. It was a difficult technique drill. At NYAC, blades square was the norm. The coach demanded blades square all the time. Before races, after races, at 5am when we pushed off the dock to start practice and and 8am when we returned, dog-tired.
The blades square mentality pervaded the rest of our practices. Coach held us to standards higher than we expected to hold ourselves. Because he demanded blades square, we demanded it from ourselves. And it became a matter of pride.
I’ll never forget those first days rowing blades square, my knuckles bloodied from hitting the gunwales each time an oar touched the water and the boat balance collapsed to one side. Nor will I forget the rest of the summer when blades square became routine and eventually second nature. Or the weight of the medal hanging around my neck as I stood on the podium.”
I thought I would share this with our readers here. For me, this is a message about tenacity, resilience, and pushing beyond what our contemporaries do. As we look forward to the new academic year, and set our sights on improving still further on this year’s examination success, the “Blades Square” mentality is very much in abundance across the John Taylor community – our staff and governors, our partner schools and organisations, our parents, and our students. So, to my staff colleagues and governors who gave their time and expertise so generously and in so many ways, the parents who supported their chidlren wisely, lovingly, patiently and positively, and the young people who did everything from coursework completion at 6 a.m. through holiday revision and form time boost sessions to trudging through the snow to an otherwise-closed school to attend January examinations, “Blades Square” is for you.
Thanks for reading.